tv America Tonight Al Jazeera March 25, 2016 2:30am-3:01am EDT
rest of the world moves and does things and changes things, takes steps forward. and i think more that we waste a year and don't have a stronger effort and place to go after i.s.i.s. and deal with the syria conflict now it's going to continue to get worse and worse. and we're going to see more of the kind of terrorist attacks like we saw just the other day in belgium. >> i'd like the thank my guests, steve hideman, rhonda swim and kurt volker. ray is back tomorrow, with the controversy surrounding hillary clinton's e-mails. i'm sheila macvicar, good night.
thanks for joining us for america tonight. tonight a closer look at the impact we make on our earth and the consequences. we see some of the clearest evidence of climate change in some of the world's most remote places, like the small island nations most directly threatened by rising tides. our correspondent saw the risk first hand when she travelled to the marshall islands and met with islanders locked in a fierce struggle to keep from becoming the world's first climate change refugees >> reporter: far in the south pacific these islands ride low above the waves, spret out over hundreds of miles of ocean. there is very little here that is not beach front. this is oon island that is
literally one road wide. on this side there's at pacific and on that side there's the lagoon and there's not much in between. for thousands of years these narrow ribbons have been safe and welcoming homes to fisherman, farmers, master navigators, explorer and canoe builders >> the biggest resource we have is the ocean. what connects us to the ocean is our vessels. the vessel, of course, is just like the vessel in your body. it brings life to your body. so as our vessel brings life all over the marshalls. >> reporter: the irony is that their greatest resource now poses the greatest threat to their future. in a low lying island. like most of them, it sits only a foot or two above the high
tide mark. that used to be much. not any more >> this is where we have king tides, this is one of the areas that it comes in. >> reporter: how high does the water get? >> about this here. right here. knee high. >> reporter: king tides occur every spring when the moon aligns with the sun to increase the gravitational pull on the earth. in just the last few years, these tides have brought devastating flooding. when the last king tides came, they came over here? >> they came in almost like a tsunami type. they just kind of went in. >> reporter: king tides flooded, an unprecedented three times last year, leaving behind salt that has contaminated the earth, killing plant life and crops and poisoning the drinking water. tell me what happened here.
>> so this is where our house stood. this is the bathroom area, the water tank was there. door? >> that was there. the steps kind of leading. so there was three surges. the first surge took out the back wall. the second surge came in and pushed out so the house collapsed, and then the third surge kind of struck everything towards the water out? >> yeah. >> reporter: this woman is one of the thousand people from here, the main island of the marshalls, rendered homeless in flooding last march. she and her family are betting all that they have that global leaders will make the tough decisions necessary to keep global warming to less than 2 degrees celsius. that's 3.6 degrees fahrenheit. with knows tough decisions, the seas might recede.
>> of course, they put in the directions >> reporter: this chief meteorologyist worries about the encroaching sea >> we've seen in the last 60 years, we've seen a steady increase in the sea level around the islands. >> reporter: there any prospect decrease? >> as long as we continue in business as usual, as long as human beings continues to do the things that they're doing now, i don't see any reason why it should be recede. our projections for sea level rise in the marshall islands shows that by 2050 there will at least be a foot rise in marshall islands. by 2090, 16 inches to two feet. >> reporter: for residents of one remote area, life has already become unsustainable.
>> it is one mile by one and a half mile wide long island. a tiny lump in the ocean. a tiny island in the ocean. >> reporter: this lady lifs here but worries about her 90 year old grandmother who remains here. sea water flooded the only runway in february cutting it off from the outside world making evacuation impossible. >> in 30 minutes it came up to their knees and within the hour it was up to the waste. by next year, when those waves come in, what's going to happen to the people some in what's going to happen to our grandmother? who is going to carry her up and out when the waves come? >> reporter: what's it look for people like your grandmother and your cousins living there know possessing that the waves will come and when they do, they can come to your waste and who knows how much higher? where do you go? >> exactly. where do you go? that's my question.
where do you go? where are people going to go? >> reporter: the nations of the world, including. the u.s., convened in paris in an attempt top cap global greenhouse emissions. that could determine the fate of those living here on these small islands in the middle of the vast pacific ocean. the people here say they won't go under without a fight next, the canary in the comb mine of our ocean. how a tiny animal may carry the biggest warning about the danger in our waters. nino. where the powerful weather system threatens to starve a community to death. a monster el nino's impact on central america and the desperation >> al jazeera america - proud of
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>> this is basically the hatchery where we grow under controlled condition our lavae >> reporter: this man over sees what may be the world's most prolific nursery. on any given day hundreds of millions of sea creatures begin life under his watchful eye. 20 million lavrva per tub? >> yes. we have about 600 million right this way >> reporter: a marine biologist raises oysters for the shell fish company. it is located in washington and is the largest producer of shell fish in the u.s. processing some 60 million oysters every year. these oysters begin life in tanks filled with sea water. they're so small they can only be seen with a microscope. when the little leave here, they
have tiny shells on them? >> yes. >> reporter: but now his newly born oyster are under threat from a phenomenon known as ocean acidification. it doesn't get as much attention as melting eye caps or rising sea levels, it is one of the most serious effects of greenhouse gas emissions. nearly one third of the world's carbon emissions are absorbed by the ocean, some 22 million tons of co2 every day. what do those emissions do to the chemistry of the water? >> basically, the co2 carbon dioxide dissolved in the water acid. this is a crucial problem, especially in the early development of the larvae >> reporter: for juvenile oysters that acid can be leth
yl, preventing them from-- lethal preventing them from forming shells. this government website offers a graphic illustration of the problem. it projects by the year 210 ocean acidity will increase by a factor of five. the shem of this common sea days. >> who knows how far this issue goes if it's affecting our oysters, what other species is it affecting. >> reporter: do you ever think this is what you would be doing? >> reporter: her grand grandfather first harvested oysters from this beach in the 1890s. tailor shell fish is a classic business. she and her cousin are the fifth generation of tailors to work here. much like farmers planting a crop, they use juvenile oyster to seed these vast tidal beaches.
here they will grow into adults ready to harvest. according to the them, ocean dearly. >> what that meant for us was we didn't have any oysters to plant on the beach. >> reporter: there was a period of time when the baby oysters were dying off and you didn't know why >> yeah. it became a norm and we correlated that to the water that was coming into the hatchery. >> reporter: we're standing in an oyster bed that was farmed by your great, grand grandfather. you must feel an enormous amount of responsibility to this land. >> absolutely. it gives you a huge sense of pride but also a huge sense of responsibility to the places that we farm and to make sure that we can farm them for another five generations. >> reporter: they say if there's anything that five generations in the seafood business has taught them, is to persevere through good and bad times.
they aren't taking this latest misfortune lying down >> we're a little bit like the canary in the mine shaft >> reporter: they've decided to fight the issue of climate change immediate on. they travelled to washington to lobby congress. they've reached out to the scientific community looking for a practical solution to prevent oyster die offs >> what i have here is today's forecast. >> reporter: this man is an oceanographer. he met him at the offices. >> it is a model of ocean circulation. >> reporter: he has been working on a way to predict daily changes to the acid level of the local waters. >> ocean acidification is not uniform everywhere in the ocean. there's big differences in the surface. >> reporter: are you optimistic this will be a tool that they can depend on? >> yes. i am. it is just like the models that people use for weather forecasting.
>> reporter: how are you compensating for the acidic water of the aocean? armed with real time data he has made adjustments to how he raises his oyster, treating his water to reduce the acidity whenever spikes occur >> we basically have a continuous ph measurement and, of course, below the prime minister, the more co2. so the more cash nature ask needed-- carbinate is made. >> reporter: you add this to the water? >> yes. that's what we are doing. >> reporter: while he believes in tie pioneering method is helping oysters survive, it hasn't completely eliminated die offs. after several good years, oyster larvae are again dying in large numbers >> every day this is showing that it is more insidious consequences to the addition of co2 to the water >> reporter: we've been around
for 1250 years remand we want to be around for another 120 years, but this is a global issue. this is something that all the world oceans are going to have to deal with at some point. it's important to us, but it's important to a lot of other people too and we just don't know all of the effects and what could happen. >> reporter: as one year old carries the family torch into its sixth generation, the tailors hope leaders are paying attention so kids like nyah is have a legacy to next here we make a turn to see the other face of el nino where the powerful weather system threatens to starve a community to death. a monster el nino's impact in central america and the struggling to survive.
>> everyone has a story... and the only way to see all of america, is to see the human stories... one at a time. get to know the people, their struggles, their hardships and their triumphs. >> it gives me a lot of pride. >> our american story is written everyday. it's not always pretty, but it's real... and we show you like no-one else can. this is our american story. this is america tonight. could it be the next trigger for a mass migration north? there is a crisis underway in central america and roughly a
million people in guatemala alone are in jeopardy. the unexpected danger is starvation. a result of the monster el nino underway now. a crisis caused by this massive weather system. we get a closer look at what ask happening in guatemala-- is happening in guatemala. >> reporter: this man and his family worked hard to prepare these fields and plant them with corn, but nothing could prepare them for the effects of el nino. el nino is being blamed for a drought which gripped guatemala for much of the past year. the 34-year-old subsistence farmer says his family's entire corn harvest was ruined. >> translation: >> reporter: el nino has disrupted the normal weather
pattern on which farmers like he depends. raining when it's supposed to be dry and dry when yats supposed to be wet. this is the third year in a row he has been hit by drought. he is worried about how his family will survive. >> reporter: poverty here is widespread with millions of people surviving off the land so changing weather is cause for alarm. the world food program's fish has been visiting subsays at thes farmers-- subsistence farmers. in some parts of central america an estimated 60% of corn and 80% of bean crops may be lost to dry weather caused by el nino.
the united nations says hundreds of thousands of families will need too food assistance. >> this is the worst dry season we have had since 35 years ago. it is affecting not only guatemala but from nicaragua up to here. el salvador has been hit as well. >> reporter: inside their tiny mud shack his wife prepares corn tortias for their children. it is what they eat for breakfast, lunch r lunch and dinner. today she had to borrow a few pound of cornmeal for their meal. making sure their five children get enough to eat is becoming more of a struggle. buying food is not an option here ear. jobs pay $5 a day if you find
one. >> reporter: in guatemala when food is scarce, the youngest often suffer the most. nearly half of all grautn children are malnourished, the fourth highest rate in the world. inside this hospital, children are treated formal nutrition. for malnutrition . she suffers from a potential fatal type of severe mall nutrition caused by protein deficiency. she was so swollen with fluids
she could hardly open her eyes. multiply her case thousands of times and it's clear why the consequence for guatemala are far-reaching. >> reporter: health care workers worry that child malnutrition will rise. people working in drought ravaged areas say there are signs that is already happening >> they're trying to conserve as much as they can, so they're skipping meal times in some areas, or diminishing the rations that they give to their children and that they eat themselves.
they even are trying to get the rotten corn in the fields to eat and that is not a good corn for that. >> reporter: some small farmers have turned to other work to try and ride out the crisis. this man has focused on his sewing after losing three months of food to the draught. in past years he would use money for selling his crops to buy necessities for his children. now he hopes to sells enough to make up. next-door they salvage what they can. this one dreams of a better life from away from her community.
guatemala is one of the ten countries most valuable to climate change. without the proper resources to study things like el nino and global warning, scientists are deeply concerned. >> you have heard that information is power and that is information. if we don't have information, in this case data, we are powerless to predict how these conditions are going to be in the near future. i'm not talking about five years. i'm talking about next year >> reporter: ngos and guatemala's government are tongue their attention to climate adaptation. this means applying new techniques. these techniques are giving him hope.